There seems to be a rise in mental issues that may or may not be part of the dip in our economy. After all, if you take someone’s livelihood away and practically guarantee that he or she won’t be able to find a new job, ‘reactive behavior’ occurs—you can call it insanity if you want, or call it desperation, or cognitive dysfunction, or even maybe hunger and shame.
Suddenly ‘life on the street’ gets a little more crowded, a little more dangerous—people with poor coping skills feel pressure, newly homeless are still reeling from the collapse of their lives, families, self-worth… As for me, besides the terror at the thought I could someday end up there (!) I see it as a scary sci-fi story—the rich people have hacked the system, disenfranchised much of the majority’s (the Saps’) democratic, legislative machinery of redress and reform, and have settled in for a long era of sucking our blood, like tics, and laughing down at us from their penthouses.
Having had Arnold Schwarzenegger serve as Governor of the State of California, it is difficult to imagine his sui generis Action-Hero-role swooping in and kicking ass and blowing up bad guys—when Ahnold is blatantly a part of the current system—a system that is proof against any uprising of the heroic or the violent. When your enemy is the system, you are facing down the heavily armed, the decidedly uninterested, and the pitiful few whose life is nearly as bad as one’s own.
Even some of the worst-off, the real ‘nose-divers’—they want nothing so much as a chance to buy back into the system that brought them where they are—on the street. And for many people, there seems little difference between business and gambling—both want something from you, both offer you future advantages that may or may not happen, depending on how honest the table is—and the luck of the draw.
But what does business offer during these hard, hard times? A virtual guarantee that the game is rigged, that the fat cats make the big dough and all us little people just keep on working, and taking it, without much to show for it. But let’s not be silly—in a world where our banking and finance industry big-shots are convicted felons, how can we possibly maintain our hope that the dice aren’t loaded in Vegas and ACNJ?
A fascinating field for debate–can civilization contain the animal within all of us? Do we want it to? If so, how much containment is enough? How much is too much? Should society try to accommodate our animal-humanity, or repress it? Can we, as a group, or even I, as an individual, ever match up our late-night resolutions with our early-morning excuses?
If everyone is at some level of mental health, how far should we go to splice that psyche onto a digital world of yes and no answers? Are people called ‘sane’, such as you or me, only to say that we are somewhat less crazy than the institutionalized crazies? We all live inside our heads–society lives outside of everyone’s heads–can we ever synchronize the two or are we doomed to mob-mentality forever?
Fascism? Not at all–I believe the problem is less amenable to brute force than it may seem–the biggest question is how aware people are of the various attempts at all those things that are currently underway–we use iconic words like liberty and freedom to represent the value of each individual life and heart. Nonetheless, we have a criminal/justice/penal system to exert constraints against anyone getting too ‘free’. We have ‘social services’ which imply that even the poorest soul will be kept from harm. Nonetheless we write budgets that curtail those services at the very time when their need for expenditures increases and unemployment is high.
We aren’t talking about ‘two steps forward, one step back’, we’re talking about two steps in every direction. People love being ‘hooked up’ to the world on the internet, but they don’t want anyone to peek at their private business as it streams to every hub across the globe. People will endure personal searches to get on a plane, but they don’t want their freedoms impinged upon by setting up DWI roadblocks in their neighborhood.
To me, it’s a matter of facing facts–you can’t have a globalized ‘community’ without its mandatory troublemakers (every community has them) not to mention Big Bro checking out our keystrokes–but digital surveillance doesn’t actually focus on an individual, it just monitors all traffic for key words and phrases. We like being able to track our car when someone rips it off, but we don’t want the police to be able to track it. We like to check out of a store where the counter-person just aims a laser gun at the RFID tag, instead of using a brain that may or may not be there–but we don’t want that data to be used for inventory, marketing, sales projections, etc.
We don’t even have a clear demarcation line between what is our behavior (our private business) and what breadcrumbs we leave as consumers (corporate research)! There’s a lady’s family that has been fighting to take the patent for her cancer-cell genes away from a pharma-R&D corporation and return them to the deceased’s family’s possession–but it’s all new law. People don’t notice what a brouhaha goes on in civil courts for all these new legal issues raised by new technology, particularly in biology and surveillance. The faster they drop in our laps, the more new law is required to control all the new abuses all this tech progress makes possible!
And, as someone (finally) began pointing out, our legislation has no ‘housekeeping’ function–we never repeal outdated laws–which in some cases can be a good or a bad thing. I don’t have a solution–but I know it’s a problem, and I know no one is talking about it.
I was born in ‘56, so I was a seven-year-old in 2nd grade, when we all got marched out to the classroom they crammed all of us kids into—the staff had a TV set up (no small doings in ’63) so we could all watch news coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination. That was my first sense of a world outside of my neighborhood, my first sense of witnessing a change in our civilization—and it wasn’t the Zapruder tape of the actual event—it was Walter Cronkite talking into the camera. I, of course, was ever afterward to take as gospel anything sent my way by the medium of network news which was, itself, just a-borning.
TV reporters such as Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley were well-respected and almost universally trusted, and they did things differently back then. For instance, whenever you were about to see something amusing, something not strictly newsworthy, the on-camera reporter would make a prolonged point about the following images being just that—amusing, but not strictly newsworthy. Back then, the TV news broadcasts were the networks’ way of fulfilling the FCC requirement that public airwaves be used in the public’s interest. The whole arrangement was new enough that network heads weren’t about to mess with the almost-PBS-type tenets of the news-reporting broadcasts.
One can see that is quite a distance from what we have now—news as consumer product—and the effects are also visible in this last week’s reportage. Everyone was focused on the ‘anniversary’ of the assassination, which amounted to little more than a re-airing of the incessant, traumatized broadcasts of the news reports of that awful day and a liberal slathering of Zapruder psych-trauma footage in an almost music-video-like strobing. But what I couldn’t help notice was that there was no reporting for those couple-or-three days of intensive ‘JFK’.
Apparently, taking a five-minute slot at the top of the hour was sufficient to deliver what the cable-news channels ordinarily spend 24 solid hours dispensing. I wonder exactly what they left out?
I’m just joking—you and I know exactly what was left out—the political tennis match, of which these channels have become the ball, was deemed skip-able for a few days. Also, we weren’t all being distracted by fervid speculation upon the possibility that a news-event-in-progress will go this way or that way. These things waste the time of busy people and fill the time of idlers—that TV news has been forced to accept the yoke of commercialism is a very sad loss for we of the TV generation. I stop in with Gwen Ifill or BBC World News, and I skim the NY Times most days. I only watch CNN and MSNBC as comfort food, when I’m just tired and want to know what’s up, out in the world.
And it’s too bad that I had to witness this epiphany while being bummed out about the ‘50th anniversary of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination’ being all over TV all weekend—no one of us who saw it live really wants to dwell on it any more than we have to—plus it constantly reminds me I’m fifty-seven, and that’s no help to me, I don’t know about other people. But I took away an important proof: even the Cable News channels know that their programs are a waste of time—and that will help me save some of my own.
I’ve been playing Bach for several decades (make that trying to play Bach) and sometimes, just to keep things fresh, I start at the end of the book and play each dance in reverse order. I still repeat the minuet after its middle part–but otherwise I go from last dance to first dance. Anyhow…